Mulled wine and roasting chestnuts. Sparkling lights and glistening ornaments. The crunch of snow. The sights, smells and sounds of Christmas come together at a Christmas Market. The joy of spending time with family and friends. The thrill of finding just the right gift. The cheer of the holiday season.
A Christmas Markets World Tour
We asked a few of our friends about their favorite Christmas Markets recently. What we got was a virtual trip around the world! Some of the globe’s greatest cities host charming and historical Christmas Markets that we know you’ll love as much as we do. Grab a cup of hot cocoa or mulled wine, and snuggle up with a little Holiday Magic in Five Festive Cities with Charming Christmas Markets!
Phil and Garth in Prague
Phil & Garth are confessed sightseeing addicts who can help you maximize your travel time with comprehensive travel guides and 60-second video guides. It’s obvious these guys love Prague!
Prague’s Christmas Markets are our favourite because of the festive atmosphere. Quite literally, the air is filled with the smell of mulled wine, gingerbread or chestnuts roasting, so you feel Christmassy as soon as you arrive.
There are two main markets, one on Wenceslas Square, the other at the Old Town Square – our favourite. The market is set amongst gorgeous colourful Gothic and Baroque architecture. It’s delightful and feels somewhat magical.
Don’t bother with dining in restaurants, grab another mulled wine or a famous Czech beer and wander the wooden huts selling many savoury and sweet treats. We chose the Prague ham, cooked on an open fire. Be prepared for gigantic proportions, it’s served with bread and relishes. (Tip – One portion will easily serve 2 people). We also loved the deep fried potato crisps that are spiralled onto wooden sticks as a continuous piece. For a sweet option then it has to be Trdelník, which you’ll find for sale all over Prague. A sweet doughy and cinnamon flavoured cake roasted over charcoal and dusted with tons of sugar. It’s crispy on the outside and soft in the middle. Choose the Nutella option if you want it extra sweet! It’s actually Slovakian in origin, even though it’s marketed as a traditional Czech cake.
We loved the Christmas shopping opportunities too! Craft stalls sell traditional gifts like wooden toys, puppets, scented candles and delicate glass Christmas tree ornaments. We bought some beautiful glass bells (reasonably priced) but sadly smashed one in our hand luggage on the plane home.
When you’re done with the main market at Old Town Square, there are many smaller markets across town to explore like the one up at Prague Castle. Here you’ll find a more intimate setting with stalls selling similar gifts, food and drink, but their backdrop is the magnificent Gothic cathedral, St. George’s Basilica.
Evenings were easily our favourite time, when Prague’s gothic skyline turns into a winter wonderland. Standing in the Old Town Square is a huge Christmas Tree draped in millions of lights and ornaments. You may even catch children singing carols and, if you’re really lucky, it may even snow! What could be more festive? This year’s market opens 2nd December 2017 – January 6th 2018.
Vienna with travelsewhere
David, creative force best known as travelsewhere, enjoys discovering the world’s hidden gems. He’s been known to enjoy the popular spots as well, including the incomparable Vienna!
The lead up to Christmas is the perfect time to visit the Austrian capital Vienna, as the city totally transforms each and every year for the festive season. Throughout the city centre, buildings and streets are illuminated with incredibly grand light displays. The chandeliers that line the Graben pedestrian street are a personal favourite of mine.
Beyond the lights, massive Christmas markets spring up in every major square of the city and in front of palaces like the Belvedere and Schönbrunn. From the day they open right up to Christmas, these markets are always buzzing with life, whether it’s locals meeting up or tourists experiencing local customs. In the other city districts, smaller local markets can be discovered down back streets and usually have much fewer tourists at them.
At Vienna’s Christmas markets you’ll find everything, from festive handcrafts to delicious and hearty foods. Oh, and let’s not forget the trillion different types of mulled wine and hot cider on offer to warm you up as you brave the increasingly biting cold of winter. As per local tradition, you pay a deposit for a charming little, often boot-shaped, mug that you can reuse while there. Once you’re done drinking you can either return it for a refund or keep the mug as a souvenir. Some like to collect the mugs from each of the city’s different markets.
If you’re looking for the biggest and busiest Christmas market in the city, then it probably has to be right in front of Vienna’s Town Hall. Here you’ll find absolutely everything, including live music. In the surrounding park, each year they have different light installations from different objects in the trees to massive art installations. Basically, if you only have time for one Christmas market during Vienna, this one would be safe bet.
Travel Lexx in Munich
Combine a love for sport, adventure, and travel, with a desire to inform and inspire others, and you have Travel Lexx. While we see him in some pretty exotic locations, he’s agreed to show us around the Christmas Markets of Munich!
There is no perfect time of year to visit Munich. Bavaria’s capital is full of things to see and places to explore all year round. However, the city comes into its own in the run-up to Christmas. Traditional Christmas markets spring up all over the city and draw in locals and tourists alike with their festive atmosphere, delicious treats and, of course, mulled wine.
The Weihnachtsmarkt at the Chinese Tower has plenty of stalls offering traditional Christmas food, handmade decorations and hot drinks to help battle the cold. Located in the Englischer Garten (English Garden), one of the world’s biggest public parks, the market is a pleasant walk away from the city centre. Bands often play live music from the tower and there is a carousel and horse-drawn carriage rides around the park.
The Weihnachtdorf (Christmas Village) just outside Odeonsplatz, has plenty of character with wooden huts spread around the courtyard with the Residenz palace as a grand backdrop. This is the place to try spicy currywurst which you can wash down with a Maß (a litre) of Bavarian beer or a hot punch.
Other options include the Christmas Markets at Sendlinger Tor and Viktualienmarkt, featuring live music, nativity scenes and even a curling rink!
Munich’s Christmas Highlight
The main draw, however, is a massive Christkindlmarkt at Marienplatz – Munich’s central square since 1158. Framed by the beautiful Rathaus (New Town Hall), the market’s stalls offer an incredible variety of things to eat, drink and take home. Snack on stollen, chocolate dipped fruit and gingerbread, shop for colourful handmade toys and decorations and wash it all down with all the Glühwein you can handle.
The market would even get The Grinch into a Christmas spirit – colourful, varied and festive, it is everything a Christmas Market should be. Add a giant Christmas tree, carol singers and a joyful atmosphere and you have a special experience like no other.
Experiencing Munich during the festive season should be on every traveller’s Christmas bucket list!
Strasbourg with California Globetrotter
Lorelei, the California Globetrotter, is a Cali expat (as you might have guessed) living in Germany. She documents her travels throughout her new home country (and beyond!), but couldn’t resist hoping across the border to THE Capital of Christmas, Strasbourg!
Visiting Europe’s oldest Christmas Market is just as magical as you might expect it to be. Dating back to 1570 and with over 300 stalls located throughout the half-timbered town which still celebrates Alsatian holiday traditions, this is one Christmas market you don’t want to miss. Enchanting Christmas decorations and twinkling lights cover every inch of the city making it one of the most romantic markets in France to visit.
Warm aromas of vin Chaud (mulled wine), chestnuts roasting on a mini portable train stand, and delicious crepes fill the air while perusing the stalls filled with traditional handcrafted goods from around the Alsace region. Here, you can also find mini Tarte flambée, macarons and sugary donut-like pretzels to fill up on while you sip on your warm vin Chaud.
With seven markets spread throughout the city, you will have plenty to explore as you check out each of the different markets offering unique goods from teas, to hats, to wine decor. Stroll around the market wrapped snuggly around the impressive Strasbourg Cathedral, the Place Kléber square with the largest Christmas tree you’ll ever see, or perhaps mingle and jingle your way through the markets in La Petite France, the most picturesque quarter of Strasbourg.
If you’re feeling ambitious, consider climbing the Strasbourg Cathedral tower for a breathtaking view over the town and the markets or simply enjoy the street musicians charming you with their holiday carols.
You can expect to find that this magical Christmas market gets quite crowded throughout the holiday season, and even more so in the evenings when the streaming Christmas lights light up the town. Only thing even more magical would be if it snowed.
Open from November 24 – December 30, 2017
TravelLatte in New York City
TravelLatte, that’s us! Being the only ones based in the USA, we felt an obligation to point out that we have Christmas Markets, too! Being the city so nice they named it twice, New York, New York pulls out the stops for holiday markets across Manhattan. (Note: Being in America, many of our Christmas Markets are closed on Thanksgiving.)
Christmas in New York City is like no place else. From the tree at Rockefeller Center to store windows at Macy’s, iconic scenes come to life across the city. It shouldn’t be surprising to find some of the country’s best Christmas markets, too!
We’ll start on Central Park West, where the red-and-white striped tents of the Columbus Circle Holiday Market welcome visitors from November 28 to Christmas Eve. Grab a warm cup of New York apple cider and some artisan chocolates, and look for the Artisan Pledge for gifts that are: 100% handmade in the USA, organic-certified, Fairtrade-certified, or recycled, reused, or vintage items.
A few blocks south is Grand Central Terminal and NYC’s longest-running indoor market, the Grand Central Holiday Fair. From mid-November to Christmas Eve, you can enjoy shopping for unique gifts without enduring the cold. While you’re there, the whole family will enjoy the New York Transit Museum’s Holiday Train Show.
Nearby is one of the city’s biggest holiday traditions: ice skating and hot chocolate at the Winter Village at Bryant Park. From late October into January, glowing glass huts make a warm winter scene, even when it’s snowing! The Winter Village is open daily with holiday gifts and décor, restaurants, and free ice skating. ($20 if you need to rent skates.)
Finally, there’s the Holiday Market at the heart of the city, Union Square. Stroll through shops with the same Artisan Pledge you’ll find at Columbus Circle, and enjoy live entertainment every day. When it gets frosty, there’s a warming station, plus a kid’s craft area. Union Square Holiday Market is open daily, mid-November until Christmas eve.
Nothing makes the holidays sparkle like handcrafted ornaments and unique gifts, and New York gives you four great places to enjoy an American Christmas Market!
Christmas Markets Around the World
Have you picked a favorite? Or is your favorite Christmas Market not on our list? Either way, we’d love to hear about it in the comments.
Special thanks to Phil & Garth, David at travelsewhere, Travel Lexx, and Lorelei, the California Globetrotter. When it comes to travel advice, these are trusted friends who know how to find the best places to visit all around the globe. Be sure to visit their blogs for more.
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